Saturday, May 19, 2018

Celebrating Shavuot as a Trans Woman

Ruth and Naomi (Buehring)
In the UK it is Saturday and a long awaited special event. Two people declare their love for each other and marry. At sundown today some of us will also begin to celebrate Shavuot; the feast of weeks.

Shavuot is one of the most significant of Jewish festivals. It celebrates the gift of the Torah to all Jewish people on Mount Sinai 3,000 years ago. It is also associated with acceptance of marginalised people through it’s association with Ruth and her story.

Ruth was a pagan woman, daughter in law to Naomi. She was an outsider from the Moabite nation.  But Naomi lost both her husband and her two sons. Ruth lost her husband.  In a time when widows starved and died with no man to support them, Ruth demonstrated enduring love and commitment to Naomi, refusing to leave her side:

“Don’t ask me to leave you! Let me go with you. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and that is where I will be buried. May the Lord’s worst punishment come upon me if I let anything but death separate me from you!”.

Ruth’s heartfelt vow to Naomi was a commitment of true love.  She returned at Naomi’s side to Bethlehem and was accepted as Jewish. These words are frequently used as a vow in heterosexual marriage ceremony yet they were shared between one woman and another.

Make up your own mind on this one.  The same word is used in Hebrew to describe the love between Adam and Eve as between Ruth and Naomi. Was this a devoted mother daughter relationship, a lesbian one or simply two incredibly loyal and devoted women, does it even matter?

The message of Shavuot has always been one of love, transition and acceptance of outcasts. I am a trans woman born of a mixed faith marriage. Trans women are outcasts.  We’re continually reminded that we are not worthy to be called women and can never be women. If we love a man some contest whether we should be allowed to marry as a woman and become a wife.  If we become mothers there will be those who invalidate our right to be considered good parents. Can we not just love accept instead of throwing up barriers and reasons not to?

At Shavuot we celebrate an outsider’s acceptance into the Jewish faith in spite of laws to the contrary, we remember the devotion two women felt for each other and we give thanks for an event which transitioned the Hebrews into the Jewish People. 

You do not have to be religious to understand and appreciate the significance of this day. Love is love, acceptance is acceptance, no matter what faith or language is involved. Trans women are women, worthy to love men or other women as they wish.  Worthy to choose a faith or not to, to be called Jewish, Muslim or Christian.

Chad Shavuot Sameach, 


Jane xx

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